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METHODOLOGY AND TRUTH. 1 

T N the history of thought, sceptical doubts regarding the ob- 
*■ jective validity of ideas made their appearance almost as soon 
as the distinction between the mind and external things had been 
clearly perceived. Since that time, the relativity of knowledge 
has been pretty constantly proclaimed ; but the peculiar form 
which this doctrine takes in modern times seems to rest more or 
less directly upon Kant's view that knowledge is a construction 
of the mind. Inasmuch as the mind works over the matter imme- 
diately given to it, introducing order and system into what would 
otherwise be without form and void, it seems possible to ask how far 
this construction corresponds in any way to reality, or indeed 
whether any reality beyond the construction itself actually exists. 
Whether or not we accept the theory that experience as a 
whole is a mental construction, no one can doubt that scientific 
knowledge is dependent in an especial sense upon the construc- 
tive activity of the mind. Whether or not we agree that ' the un- 
derstanding makes nature,' we will all admit that the understand- 
ing makes science. For in the sciences we consciously and more 
or less deliberately decide regarding the conceptions, or ways of 
judging about things, which we shall adopt. We make the 
methodological assumptions which appear best fitted to enable 
us to proceed, and create the hypotheses which seem best suited 
to the work of systematizing the body of facts with which we 
propose to deal. Then, too, the choice of a starting-point and 
the subsequent direction of the inquiry, which influence at least 
the form of a science very greatly, introduce other elements of 
a subjective or methodological character. We are able to appre- 
ciate to some extent the amount and character of this construc- 
tive work, when we begin the study of any science or group of 
sciences which is entirely new to us. It takes us several weeks 
or months to gain the necessary point of view, to get the concep- 

1 Paper read before the New Haven meeting of the American Psychological Asso- 
ciation, December, 1899. 



46 THE PHILOSOPHICAL REVIEW. [Vol. X. 

tions defined, and to become accustomed to their exact employ- 
ment in making judgments. 

When we become conscious of these and other special limiting 
conditions attaching to the scientific form of knowing, it is not 
strange that questions should arise as to what value we ought to 
attach to the conclusions of science as an account of the nature 
of the real world. What value, that is, have these conclusions 
for philosophy, and what attitude should philosophers adopt to- 
wards them ? When students of the physical sciences are ques- 
tioned about the relation which they conceive to exist between 
the propositions which form their science, and the nature of reality, 
the result is usually unsatisfactory. They have either never 
thought about the subject, or are afraid that there is some meta- 
physical puzzle lurking about the term ' reality.' And so most 
frequently we are told that their science professes to deal only 
with certain facts of experience ; its conceptions and hypotheses 
serve to describe and render coherent these facts. Further than 
that the science does not go: what matter is, or what ultimate 
reality is, lies entirely beyond the ken of their science. 

Now if we abandon, as I think we must, all hope of having our 
difficulty solved by a direct appeal to the representatives of the 
special sciences, and attempt to find an answer for this question 
ourselves, there seems to be three possible positions which we may 
assume. We may, in the first place, accept without question the 
account which science gives of nature and of man, as the last word 
which can be spoken on these subjects. Or, secondly, we may 
point to the methodological nature of scientific knowledge, and, 
emphasizing this aspect, refuse to admit that science has any 
validity or significance whatsoever as an account of what really 
exists. Or, thirdly, it is possible to take a middle ground, and 
without either accepting the scientific account as final, or ignoring 
entirely its results, to maintain that it is in some way significant as 
an account of reality, though its real importance may be very 
different from that which at first sight seems to attach to it. 

The first point of view, when consistently carried out, abolishes 
philosophy altogether, and gives us ' naturalism ' and ' psycholog- 
ism,' instead of a philosophy of nature and a philosophy of mind. 



No. i.] METHODOLOGY AND TRUTH. 47 

Although the contention that scientific results are significant for 
philosophy rests on a sound basis, as I hope to show later, yet 
'naturalism' and ' psychologism ' are so thoroughly uncritical, 
and so obviously ignore the special conditions under which the 
sciences work, that I may assume that they require no extended 
refutation. In our day, Mr. Spencer (in spite of his doctrine of 
the ' unknowable,' which really has a very loose connection with 
his ' synthetic ' philosophy) is perhaps the best representative of 
this mode of thought ; and his shortcomings have been so often 
pointed out that it would be a work of supererogation to refer to 
them again before a professional audience. At the present day, 
there is perhaps very little danger of any other writer explicitly 
maintaining as a general thesis the position which I have indi- 
cated. It is more likely, I fear, to be adopted unconsciously with 
regard to some special fact or group of facts which seems to sup- 
port a favorite theory. It is not uncommon, even at the present 
day, for philosophers to be guilty of uncritically adopting what 
they term ' scientific results,' or 'scientific principles,' from this or 
that field of special investigation, without any examination of the 
assumptions and postulates of the department from which they 
have been taken, or of the new meaning which these facts or prin- 
ciples acquire when transferred to another field. Examples of this 
mode of procedure are not hard to find. In more than one re- 
cent work, we have a denial of the existence of any permanent self 
or ego based upon the psychological analysis of consciousness into 
a series of conscious processes. Many ethical writers of the 
present day, in their zeal to be ' scientific,' seem especially open 
to this temptation. For example, the uncritical transferrence of 
the biological principle of the ' survival of the fittest ' into the 
domain of conduct, has perhaps done more to obscure than to 
illuminate a field where conscious emotion and intelligent will are 
the most important terms. Again, it is not uncommon to find 
writers on ethics assuming that the whole question regarding 
the relation of motive to desire and to choice, is once for all set- 
tled by the psychological doctrine of the affective life, as consist- 
ing in pleasantness and unpleasantness. 1 This whole mode of 

i Ci. Professor Everett's article in this Review on "The Evaluation of Life." 
Vol. VII (1898), pp. 382 ff. 



48 THE PHILOSOPHICAL REVIEW. [Vol. X. 

procedure clearly ignores the essential difference between the 
standpoint which psychology necessarily adopts in viewing the 
mind as composed of conscious processes, and that which is es- 
sential for ethics in attempting to comprehend the life of moral 
judgments and evaluations. 

To deny completely the significance of the construction of 
facts furnished by science, as the second view which I have enum- 
erated does, may at first sight appear more reasonable. More- 
over, this proceedure has practical advantages ; for by separating 
science and philosophy, and adopting the doctrine of the twofold 
nature of truth, one is able to arrive at a settlement of long-standing 
controversies. Now, if this dualistic position is adopted, we have 
to maintain that ultimate reality with which we contrast our scien- 
tific knowledge is either [a) something lying beyond experience 
and forever unknowable ; or (B) an immediate subjective expe- 
rience totally different in kind from the objective experience with 
which scientific thought deals. The first view, that of Kant, still 
survives in some quarters ; but it is especially the second form of 
this doctrine which has found defenders at the present day. Ac- 
cording to this theory, there is complete difference in kind between 
experience as we live it, and the thoughts and theories which we 
have about it. The former alone possesses the warm breath 
of life and reality ; the latter is nothing but a cold logical con- 
struction, whose only test of truth is self-consistency and coher- 
ence. Along with this distinction, we usually find it more or less 
explicitly maintained that the true reality can only be known by 
getting rid of the constructions and ' introjections ' of thought, 
and harking back to immediate acts of will, or to some other 
form of reine Erfahrung. 

Now — if I may be dogmatic for the sake of being brief — this 
theory seems to me mistaken both in what it affirms and in what 
it denies. For there is no such thing as an immediate exper- 
ience, or a willing experience — at least that is known to human 
beings — which is not also a cognitive experience ; and no cogni- 
tive experience without thoughts. The ' given ' element cannot be 
separated from the contribution of thought, but is continuous with 
it ; just as the present cannot be separated from the past or the past 



No. i.] METHODOLOGY AND TRUTH. 49 

from the future. An experience that is ' pure ' in the sense of reine 
Erfahrung, something free from all introjections of thought, is not 
only practically, but logically an impossible ideal ; for it contra- 
dicts itself by demanding that the mind shall know without using 
its own powers of cognition. The same difficulty confronts us, 
I think, if we make the reality of the immediate experience con- 
sist in will-acts instead of in feeling. It is only by running counter 
to experience that we can separate will from knowledge, or speak 
of a life which wills and realizes purposes, while knowledge re- 
mains to it something external and secondary. 

But if it is impossible to discover a real experience outside of, Or 
beyond thought — if there is no immediacy which has not been al- 
ready mediated — we may ask whether thinking ever goes on in sep- 
aration from reality. In particular, we have to inquire whether it is 
a possible view of thought which represents scientific judgments as 
purely conceptual or hypothetical constructions, which are entirely 
without validity orsignificance from the point of view of ultimate truth. 

When we consider any body of scientific truth, we are com- 
pelled, I think, to say that it professes to describe some aspect of 
the real world. It will probably contain some conceptions or hy- 
potheses whose main function is very evidently regulative or meth- 
odological. But it seems impossible to take this view of any 
complete science, and still more obviously impossible, of science 
as a whole. However, it will be granted that if any science may 
properly be considered to be purely hypothetical it is mathe- 
matics. For mathematical judgments do not appear to deal 
directly with sensible realities, nor with any other form of indi- 
vidual existence, but seem to be concerned with conceptions of 
number and space, whose reality is only ideal. Judgments about 
the properties of a triangle, or the relations of x and y, do not 
appear to refer to any concrete existence. It may seem, there- 
fore, that their meaning is purely hypothetical, and that their 
true significance is merely, that if we assume certain concep- 
tions to start with, then certain results necessarily follow. It 
is no doubt true that there is a certain sense in which not only 
mathematical judgments, but all universal judgments whatso- 
ever are hypothetical. It is none the less true, however, that 



50 THE PHILOSOPHICAL REVIEW. [Vol. X. 

even in mathematical judgments the categorical element never 
entirely disappears, though it is undoubtedly somewhat indirect. 
By this latter statement, I mean that the subject of the proposition 
does not correspond with the real subject of judgment (as indeed is 
perhaps rarely or never the case with any universal judgment). In 
making judgments about the properties of the triangle or the 
ellipse, what we assume is not the reality of the particular figure, 
but perhaps the reality of space ; or, at any rate, we may say that 
the truths of mathematics, like the truths of ethics, are in some 
way incorporate in the world. Again, it should be remembered 
that mathematical conceptions are neither a priori ideas, nor 
merely arbitrary conceptions ; but that they have been suggested 
by the observation of actually existing objects. The procedure 
of mathematical science, too, is not purely deductive and concep- 
tual, but as Kant pointed out, it has frequently to appeal to per- 
ception in order to advance at all. Even the imaginary geometry 
of non-euclidean space, though on an entirely different plane 
from ordinary geometry, is, I suppose, only rendered possible by 
construction in analogy with what is already known of the tridi- 
mensional space of our experience. 

If, then, mathematics is never merely hypothetical, but alway 
deals more or less directly with the nature of reality, a fortiori 
this is also true of the other sciences. It can be shown, I think, 
that the reference to reality becomes more obvious and direct, as 
we pass from mathematics and physics to sciences like chemistry 
and biology. It may be difficult to state precisely what there is 
in reality which corresponds to the conception of physical atoms, 
or to that of masses. But it cannot be doubted that the judg- 
ments in which these and similar conceptions are employed, do refer 
to some characteristic in the nature of the real world. Although 
these conceptions are methodological, they are likewise functions 
of thought, and, like all thinking, aim at grasping the nature of 
a reality beyond themselves. We may say that it is only possi- 
ble for them to be methodological — to systematize and extend 
our ideas — because they are at the same time constitutive in some 
degree of a reality beyond our ideas. When we assert that an 
hypothesis is true because it works, or that an assumption justifies 



No. I.] METHODOLOGY AND TRUTH. 51 

itself by enabling us to systematize our experience, or to predict 
what is going to happen, we are not proposing a purely subjective 
test of truth. 

It is often assumed, indeed, that there are two quite distinct 
criteria of truth : first, the subjective criterion of consistency of 
ideas ; and secondly, the objective, though perhaps untainable, 
standard of correspondence with reality. In maintaining that 
these criteria cannot be separated, I may appear to be adopting 
the discredited assumption of the pre-Kantian rationalists — that 
the order and connection of ideas correspond to the order 
and connection of things. The weakness which caused the 
downfall of rationalism did not, however, consist in the doc- 
trine that thinking is able to transcend its purely subjective ex- 
istence and come into connection with reality, but in its wholly 
uncritical character. It failed, that is, to furnish an adequate 
analysis of the nature of knowledge, and so had no standard for 
evaluating ideas except that of their clearness and distinctness, and 
no principle of procedure except the law of identity. The Kantian 
Criticism supplied, to some extent at least, what was lacking ; but 
in doing so it lost, or almost lost, the connection between thought 
and reality which had characterized the dogmatic theories. Of 
course, it is true that this connection was held on a very preca 
tious tenure by the rationalists, and was thoroughly inadequate 
in its dogmatic form. It seems to me, however, that although a 
breath of criticism suffices to overthrow the naive dogmatic faith, 
that an analysis of the nature of knowledge which is free from 
Kant's unfortunate presuppositions, allows us to see the essential 
element of truth which it contained. Indeed, it is true univer- 
sally, I think, that a one-sided view regarding the relation of 
knowledge and reality is always the result of an imperfect anal- 
ysis of the nature of intelligence. 

This statement may obtain confirmation, if we consider the 
theory of knowledge which underlies the methodological view of 
science as it is held by Karl Pearson, and by others of the same 
school. The conclusions which that theory adopts seem to 
follow immediately and inevitably, so long as we assume the Lock- 
ian doctrine that knowledge consists in the perception of agree- 



5 2 THE PHILOSOPHICAL REVIEW. [Vol. X. 

ment or disagreement of our ideas. That is, for the methodolog- 
ical view which we are examining, scientific knowledge is purely 
a matter of ideas or concepts. Thought is thus nothing but a 
function of unity among ideas, not the unity of ideas with any- 
thing beyond themselves. Modern theories of judgment, how- 
ever, have shown veiy clearly the inadequacy of this view. We 
do not deal merely with our own ideas in judgment — if by our 
own ideas we mean purely subjective existences which can be 
described in terms of conscious content. In fact, if we think of 
an idea as a mental function, rather than as a mental thing, it is 
quite impossible to overlook its objective reference — or, perhaps, 
better, its real objectivity. This is not something which an idea 
comes to have through any accidental convention, or in any 
secondary and external way, but is as much a part of its real 
nature as what we call its subjectivity. The truth which lies at 
the basis of parallelism consists just in this fact — that the rela- 
tion between idea and object is not a relation which can be ade- 
quately expressed in terms' of external interaction, but one which 
is essential and organic. It is of course true that the upholders 
of the doctrine of parellelism sometimes suppose that they are 
emphasizing the disparateness, rather than the identity of the phys- 
ical and psychical. Nothing, however, is more striking in recent 
discussions than to note how thinkers who uphold parallelism 
have come to emphasize the necessary correlation — and we can 
almost say, the organic unity — of the physical and mental, rather 
than their separateness and isolation, which seemed to be the aspect 
most prominent in the minds of the earlier representatives of this 
doctrine. 

Even the figure of the symbol and the thing symbolized does 
not adequately express the relation between the idea and its 
object ; for this mode of representing it still leaves the connection 
external and accidental. We shall have to say that the idea, 
in so far as it is an element of knowledge, is not merely a 
symbol of reality, but essentially one with the reality known 
through it. This is not to deny the distinction between idea and 
thing, but merely to insist that the two are necessary correlatives, 
and not irreducible opposites. The idea as a mere subjective ex- 



No. i.] METHODOLOGY AND TRUTH. 53 

istence extends beyond itself, and has necessary relations with the 
larger world of objects ; just as the individual involves an organic 
connection with the society of which he is a member. 

The bearing of this discussion upon our main problem is, I 
think, sufficiently evident. We are now able to see that both of 
the attitudes towards scientific truth which have occupied us so 
far have a certain justification. The uncritical adoption of the 
results of science as a final philosophy is at least right in assum- 
ing that knowledge and reality are not divorced. On the other 
hand, what we have called the methodological view has gained a 
critical consciousness of the conditions and limitations under 
which science necessarily works, though, like the critical stand- 
point of Kant, it is open to the charge of subjectivity. It recog- 
nizes that many scientific conceptions do not profess to be directly 
descriptive of actually existing objects, but can only be regarded as 
provisional hilfsbegriffe, whose function consists in coordinating for 
the time being some group of facts. Again, to dwell further on 
the justification of the methodological view, it might be urged 
that it is largely a matter of choice what conceptions we shall 
apply in any particular field ; and, more especially, that to a large 
extent the methodological procedure which any science adopts is 
determined largely by custom, or by the individual bent of the 
special investigator. We may speak of many of our scientific 
conceptions as merely instrumental — as a scaffolding by means 
of which we climb towards the truth. It is also essential, in order 
to state the case fairly, to call attention to the necessary abstrac- 
tions which science is compelled to make in order to get under 
way at all. Not only does it go beyond experience by forming 
conceptions, as e. g., of a perfect triangle or a perfectly rigid or a 
perfectly inert body, but it is obliged to consider certain facts or 
aspects of facts in isolation from the concrete surroundings in 
which they are known in actual experience. 

All this it is essential to clearly recognize. And against the 
uncritical attitude which mistakes a science for a philosophy, a 
method of investigation for a system of truth, it is well that the 
methodological character of science should be frequently pointed 
out. But, on the other hand, the whole duty of the philosopher is 



54 THE PHILOSOPHICAL REVIEW. [Vol. X. 

not fulfilled when he has shown that there is no absolute finality 
about scientific truth. One cannot simply bless scientific results 
and let them go. They are methodological, and false, and hypo- 
thetical, to be sure, in that they are abstract, and incomplete, and 
loaded with limitations and conditions which make them really 
quite different from what at first sight they appear to be. But, as 
we have seen, they are not arbitrary or capricious ; and, therefore, 
they possess a real objective value which must be reckoned with 
in our philosophy. 

It is much easier to pass general criticisms on the propositions 
of science, or even to ignore them entirely, than to evaluate them by 
understanding what they really say, as distinguished from what they 
only seem to say. In attempting to understand the significance 
of any scientific fact or law, the all-important thing is to recog- 
nize clearly under what conditions, and with what assumptions, 
the judgments in question have been made, in order that we may 
know precisely what is asserted and what is not. Error arises 
when we fail to understand what a judgment really asserts, and 
consequently take it for what it is not. To properly estimate the 
importance of the propositions of any science from the standpoint 
of philosophy, then, it is necessary to comprehend the limitations 
and conditions which the postulates of the field in which they 
were first formulated impose upon these propositions. Other- 
wise we shall fail altogether to see what is really asserted. An 
excellent illustration of the violation of this principle is afforded by 
the popular interpretation of the law of the conservation of energy. 
This law is a methodological principle of physical science, and 
simply states the fact, which in certain fields has been inductively 
proved, that in any particular case the cause is quantitatively iden- 
tical with the effect. It is not, however, unusual to find this 
proposition stripped of its limitations, and transformed into the 
ontological and absolute statement that the world is a constant 
sum of energy from which nothing can be taken and to which 
nothing can be added. 1 

I have sought to maintain throughout this paper that every 
judgment has some reference to reality, and that, therefore, in so 

'Cf. Ward, Naturalism and Agnosticism, Vol. I., pp. 170 ff. 



No. i.] METHODOLOGY AND TRUTH. 55 

far as it is true it must have a genuine significance as a determi- 
nation of the real world. In the universal propositions of science, 
the real subject of the judgment rarely (or perhaps never) cor- 
responds with the grammatical subject of the proposition. 1 The 
task then which philosophy has to perform in this connection is 
to make clear the real implications of these propositions, and thus 
to become aware of their true import and significance. To put 
the matter in another way, we may say that each special science 
necessarily considers some group of facts in isolation from other 
realms of facts. Its conclusions are therefore valid only under the 
supposition which it makes — namely, that its group of facts is 
thus isolated. What philosophy must seek to do is to re- 
move these abstractions, and to evaluate the scientific con- 
clusions from the standpoint of the concrete whole. Thus all 
the physical sciences consider the world as it would be if it 
existed out of relation to mind. It is evident at once, that 
the results of these sciences can not be carried over, directly 
and without modification, into our philosophy of nature. To 
do this would be to affirm absolutely what the physical sciences 
assert only under (a more or less conscious) limitation. When 
we come to psychology, with which philosophy is still more 
closely connected, we must distinguish, I think, degrees of ab- 
stractness in its methods of treating its subject matter. On the 
one hand, the point of view of the older works, as well as of 
many of the standard treatises of the present day, are abstract 
only in so far as all thinking is inevitably abstract, in virtue of 
its nature as selective activity. These systems of psychology 
describe mind, that is, as a system of functions of a self, and thus 

1 In this connection I may refer to Professor Royce's interesting treatment of uni- 
versal judgments, The World and the Individual, pp. 270 ff. For him, the func- 
tion of the universal judgment is always primarily exclusive and negative. " In the 
exact sciences, or, again, in case of those practically important realms of Being 
which we view as subject to our choice, whenever we win control over a system of 
ideas and assert a truth, or decide upon a course of action, and whenever we do this 
upon the basis of general principles, our insight is always destructive of merely ab- 
stract possibilities, and, where our knowledge takes the form of universal judgments, 
they are always primarily such destructive judgments, so far as they relate to external 
objects. They tell us, indirectly, what is, in the realm of external meanings, but 
only by first telling us what is not" (p. 277). 



5 6 THE PHILOSOPHICAL REVIEW. 

afford what at least approaches to a philosophy of mind. On 
the other hand, however, an influential and somewhat num- 
erous group of scholars at present insist on making psychol- 
ogy a ' natural ' science. By that they mean, if I understand 
the position correctly, that the same logical demand which re- 
quires that the physical world should be described and explained 
as it would be if it were independent of consciousness, also 
obliges us to consider the content of consciousness, as it would 
exist if it were independent of any central principle of intelligence. 
Which of these methods of procedure is the more profitable for 
psychology will doubtless be settled in time inside of the science 
itself. The philosopher, however, if he is to avoid confusion, will 
find it necessary to distinguish between these two psychological 
standpoints, and to proceed differently in seeking to give to each 
set of results its proper value in his final account of the na- 
ture of mind. 

J. E. Creighton.